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LETTERS TO EDITOR
Dracula The Musical
by Les Gutman
Such is the fate of Dracula. From its opening moments, and in almost every respect, this is a painfully bad show. To make matters worse, the seriousness with which it is presented makes it clear that the creators are blind to the potential it might have if they were to embrace its "badness".
The pablum-esque nature of Wildhorn's music doesn't need to be discussed in detail. Suffice it to say his themeless yet over-emotional pop style is in full effect here, and strikes me as particularly derivative, not only of his own prior work but of others (with the Lloyd Webber influences especially strong). The lyric/book writers here are fully complicit in the tedium. Don Black (perhaps not surprisingly) and Christopher Hampton (much more so) have managed to homogenize Bram Stoker's story to the point all of its appeal has been stripped away; their writing couldn't be much clunkier. Dracula arrives in the middle of this year's Fringe Festival, which includes thirty-nine musical offerings. Many of them have their faults, but can be accepted as the work of new writers and directors still ascending the learning curve. Here, there is no excuse.
One might hope at least that the show's design and technical elements provide some appeal. Here, except for Catherine Zuber's extravagant costumes, they don't. Heidi Ettinger's sets have more moving parts than a Swiss watch, but still manage to get in the way. Howell Binkley's lighting (heavy on the ultraviolet and crimsons beams) is unadulterated Vegas, and Acme Sound Partners have somehow succeeded making the performers seem as if they are lip-syncing unintelligibly while rendering the paltry orchestra (three of the six members playing synthesizers) sound totally pre-recorded. A choreographer is credited, though there is no discernible choreography, unless it is to make the actors seem like cardboard figures of themselves. Flying by Foy performs its usual services here, though there is no longer much magic in it, especially when we add the necessary "to excess" to the description.
For the cast, I have greater sympathy. It is not possible to believe that the normally-accomplished Tom Hewitt purposefully rendered Dracula as leaden as we see him here. Or that Melissa Errico (who notwithstanding sounds and looks terrific) did not work to overcome the substanceless persona of Mina. Much of the remainder of the cast does indeed seem to have followed this Dracula into the mist. The only three cast members who make any impression at all are Don Stephenson whose Renfield remarkably seems to be a real (if creepy) person in all this muck; Stephen McKinley Henderson's Van Helsing, who overcomes some of the show's most deplorable writing to at least be interesting; and, in a few glimpses, Bart Shatto, who manages a few legitimate laughs as the out-of-place Texan, Quincey Morris.
Responsibility for all of this must of course fall on the shoulders of Des McAnuff, the director, though there are many guilty parties here. The lapses of judgment in this show are so massive that it hardly serves a purpose to seek out the few exceptions for notation. There can be nothing but sadness for the cynicism brought on by this expensive but haphazard and ultimately inexcusable production.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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